Health Subcommittee hears reports on use of CARES Act funding, other health agencies efforts

by | Jan 27, 2021


At today’s meeting of the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, the Department of Health reported on the use of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act federal funds to combat COVID-19 in Florida and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) reported on the implementation of legislation enacted during the last legislative year.

The Department of Health’s Deputy Secretary for Operations Michele Tallent presented the subcommittee with a slide presentation breaking down the use of the $1.9 billion in federal CARES Act funding in Florida. That money included $1.5 billion for epidemiology and laboratory capacity, $224 million for immunization grants and for the funding of a workforce of over 12,000 newly hired and existing staff fighting the pandemic.

When asked if Publix supermarkets were being compensated for its vaccination efforts, Tallent said to her knowledge it was not.

She also said no state money is being used for the state’s current pandemic response, including the cost of all contract tracers, personal protection equipment and infrastructure for testing sites. She said the costs was covered by the CARES Act funding.

Also during the subcommittee meeting, the APD Chief of Consumer Support Lorena Fulcher reported on her agency’s implementation of SB 82, passed in 2020. The bill made operational changes to the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waiver operated by APD to improve the quality of services provided and to standardize agency processes. The bill required waiver support coordinators who act as case managers for individuals on the waiver to be employees of qualified waiver support coordination organizations. The bill is expected to reduce the cost of the waiver program which experienced budget deficits over the last several years.

Fulcher said that many steps were taken to make the recommended changes necessary for provisions to take effect July 1, 2021.

DCF reported on the implementation of SB 1326, which was also passed in the 2020 budget. The bill made several changes to the child welfare programs administered by DCF to promote accountability and improve program performance. The bill also seeks to increase the use of faith-based organizations in the delivery of services.

To improve accountability, the bill established the Office of Quality within DCF to measure and monitor the performance of agency programs. The office sets performance metrics and standards, improves the ability of DCF to analyze program performance data, and recommends initiatives to correct deficiencies.

Subcommittee Chairman Senator Aaron Bean and several subcommittee members expressed satisfaction with the Office Of Quality’s efforts to date, particularly in its use of data analytics to help case workers learn best practices.

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